Quite commonly, people don’t know what items need to be removed or taken out of their bags during the airport security screenings. Instead, they go with the flow, and if anything goes wrong, they do what the TSA security agent says.
You could do that, and you would manage just fine. However, if you want to get through airport security faster, you should learn the basics. By doing this, you’ll also speed up the security checks for everyone else. Also, some might not know that some items, like jewelry, don’t need to be taken off during the security, but they do it anyway. Let’s go over the basics of going through airport security.
Which Items You Have to Take off at Airport Security
If you forget to remove some items before going through the screening machine, the TSA agents will probably pat you down. To avoid this, first, learn which items you need to remove during airport security. We’ll cover the ones that we get the most questions about below.
Do You Have to Take off Jewelry at Airport Security?
When going through the screening machine, you do not need to remove jewelry. Rings, necklaces, earrings, and other types of jewelry are okay to keep on unless they contain too much metal. Most jewelry barely contains any metal, so you shouldn’t have to remove it. This is a common misconception, so TSA often shares reminders for passengers. They encourage people to leave jewelry on because it could get lost or forgotten in the bins, and that makes the lines at the security longer.
Do You Have to Remove Piercings at Airport Security?
In general, you should not remove body piercings when going through airport security. However, larger body piercings may cause the alarm to go off, so you might be asked by an agent for an additional pat-down. If you would rather avoid the pat-down, you can take out the piercing in private and go through the screening machine again.
Do You Have to Remove Watches at Airport Security?
Hand watches containing a lot of metal should be removed and placed in the screening bins before going through the screening machine. Plastic or wooden watches, or ones containing only a little bit of metal, can be left on. But if you’re wearing a full-metal watch, you should remove it because it will cause the alarm on the screening machine to go off.
Do You Have to Take off Your Shoes at Airport Security?
Unfortunately, TSA still asks its passengers to remove their shoes when going through the screening machine. In other parts of the world, this practice was common a decade ago. But nowadays, airport security in other countries will let you keep your shoes on. If you find yourself on a flight through the U.S. or with a U.S. airline, remember to wear socks to avoid getting a fungal infection.
Lately, TSA has been introducing new screening machines, which don’t require passengers to wear shoes anymore. But don’t get excited just yet, because as of right now, they’re only available in a few airports around the world. So most likely, you’ll still have to remove your shoes.
If you’re over 75, you may keep your shoes and jacket on when going through the screening machine. If the alarm goes off, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes and jacket and go through the screening machine again. If it’s still beeping, you may be required to undergo a pat-down.
Do You Have to Take off Coats and Jackets at Airport Security?
Before going through the screening machine, you should take off any bulky coats or jackets and put them in a separate bin. Some jackets may contain metal that sets the alarm off. Also, the TSA agents need to make sure that you don’t have any prohibited items under your jacket. So to avoid a pat-down, always take off your jacket before going through security.
Do You Have to Remove Belts at Airport Security?
Most belts will have to be removed and placed in the x-ray bins before going through the screening machine. That’s because most belts have a belt buckle made out of metal, which sets the alarms off. The only type of belt that reliably passes through security is on with a belt buckle made out of carbon fiber or plastic. Here’s a more classic carbon fiber belt, and here’s a more modern one. Both of them don’t contain any metal, so they won’t beep when you go through the screening machines.
Can You Carry Your Wallet Through Airport Security?
If you’re not carrying coins or anything metallic, leaving your wallet in your pocket should be okay because it shouldn’t set off the alarms on the screening machine. That is unless you’re carrying a safer, RFID-blocking wallet, which will have to be inspected individually. We encourage people to leave wallets in their pockets to avoid something accidentally falling out and getting lost. That said, most of the time, TSA agents will ask you to remove your wallet and place it in a separate bin even if it doesn’t contain any metal, especially if you have a thick wallet that is hard to screen. You can also ask for a manual inspection if you would prefer that, too. People aren’t happy about TSA asking to remove their wallets, but if you’re flying in the U.S., you don’t have a choice.
Can You Wear a Hat Through Airport Security?
Hats, even bulky headpieces such as turbans, can be worn when going through airport security, during the flight, or inside an airport. A few years back, TSA required all passengers to remove their hats, which caused issues for those of the Sikh faith. You see, in their culture, turbans are considered private pieces of clothing. Turbans aren’t to be removed in public. So TSA changed their rules and now allows the passengers to leave hats and other headpieces on. That said, they still may ask for an additional pat-down or to tell you to remove your headpiece in private if necessary.
Do You Have to Take Keys and Spare Change out of Your Pockets at Airport Security?
Keys, spare change, and other small metal objects are the first things you should remove before going through airport security. They contain enough metal to set the alarms off, so you should always place them inside an x-ray bin together with your other items. Just remember to keep an eye on them to avoid anything getting lost or stolen.
Can You Wear Airpods Through Airport Security?
AirPods won’t set off the TSA screening alarms by themselves if you keep them in your ears while going through, but you will most likely be asked to remove them. That’s because TSA requires passengers to remove any objects that contain metal from their pockets when going through. That said, if you have your AirPods in your carry-on or personal item, you shouldn’t need to remove them from the bag, as you only need to remove items larger than mobile phones. If you fear losing your AirPods, it’s best to just keep them inside your bag.
Do You Have to Wear a Face Mask Through Airport Security?
Disclaimer: Covid-19 rules change all the time, so make sure to double-check any relevant info regarding face masks and TSA over here.
As of right now, you are required to wear a face mask when going through the TSA airport security. You may be asked to adjust your face mask if the screening machines go off for ID verification. If not asked to, you should always keep your mask on when going through the airport security.
Read next: 80 Packing Tips for International Travel
Which Items You Have to Take out of Your Bag At Airport Security
Do You Have to Take out Laptops at Airport Security?
As of right now, you have to remove laptops from your carry-on bag and place them in a separate bin before going through the security. The only instance where you can leave your laptop inside the carry-on is if it’s placed inside a dedicated laptop pocket. Some carry-on bags now come with built-in padded pockets for laptops that don’t have any pockets around them that disrupt the X-ray image. If the image still is cluttered even though it’s packed inside the dedicated pocket, the TSA might ask you to place it inside a separate bin. That said, things have been changing because the TSA has begun installing new CT scanners that won’t require removing laptops from their bags.
Read Next: Top 12 Best 17-Inch Laptop Backpacks in 2022
Do You Have to Take out Cell Phones, Tablets, Ipads, Cameras, Power Banks, Desktops, and Other Electronics at Airport Security?
Before 2017, TSA didn’t ask passengers to remove tablets, e-readers, and cameras from their carry-on bags. But in 2017, they increased security. You now have to take any electronics bigger than a mobile cell phone out of your bag and place them in a separate bin, so other items won’t interfere with the image when screened. That said, you can still leave your cell phone in the bag.
An important note about bringing electronics: Always ensure that all electronics you’re bringing in your hand luggage are charged. The TSA agents might ask you to turn your electronics on during the security, and if the battery is dead or the device doesn’t turn on, they’re allowed to confiscate the item.
Read next: Do They Check Hard Drives at Airports?
Do You Have to Take out Chargers at Airport Security?
Chargers and cables for electronic devices don’t need to be removed from your carry-on when going through airport security. That said, they do clutter the x-ray images a lot, so unless you’ve packed just a few chargers in there, the TSA agents might ask you to remove them from the bag and place them in a separate bin. But we always do that anyway. We use a travel electronics organizer full of chargers which we proactively remove and place inside a separate bin to avoid any additional inspections.
Do You Have to Take out Toiletries and Liquids at Airport Security?
During the airport security screening, you have to remove your quart-sized bag of toiletries from your carry-on and place it in a separate bin. The reason is that liquids can obstruct the images of the x-ray screening machine.
Do You Have to Take out Medication at Airport Security?
Unless the medicine is in a liquid or powder form, it can stay inside your carry-on. Powdered or liquid medicine will have to be removed and placed inside a separate bin because it can obstruct the x-ray screening images. If you don’t want your medicine screened, you can ask the TSA officers to inspect them manually.
Do You Have to Take out Food at Airport Security?
Although you aren’t obliged to remove food items from your bag, it’s a good idea to do that nevertheless. TSA has stated many times that specific foods will obstruct the x-ray screening images. To get a clear image, they’ll ask you to remove any food items from your bag and place them in a separate bin.
TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine. Travelers are encouraged to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving.
Do You Have to Take Out Cash at Airport Security?
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Rules may change, and this information may be incorrect when you’re reading this.
Body scanner alarms will go off if you pass through the scanner with coins, so you can keep your cash on your person if you want. Rather than separating bills from the rest of your wallet, it’s easier to put everything in a bin and pass it through the x-ray machine.
If you’re flying internationally, you have to declare amounts that are $10,000 and higher. Domestic flights don’t have to go through customs, so you won’t have to declare high amounts of cash, and you can carry limitless amounts of cash onto the plane. You will, however, have to go through a TSA screening. The best thing to do is ask for a private screening and declare your cash to the agent. Sometimes, traveling with large sums of money can have ties to illegal activities. They will likely ask you questions concerning the amount of money, where it’s from, etc.
Here are some ways to stay safe while traveling with cash:
- If possible, avoid traveling with large amounts of cash.
- If you do have to travel with a large sum of money, carry it in a separate bag or something you can lock.
- Don’t put cash or other valuables in your checked luggage.
- Keep your money out of public view and always have your baggage in your line of sight.
- Always tell the truth about your cash to the TSA agents.
- If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of theft, you need to contact an airport police officer (TSA is not a part of law enforcement.)
Are Airport TSA Scanners Safe for Your Health?
According to EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency), backscatter x-ray systems and millimeter wave machines, used for scanning passengers in airports, pose a very, very minimal risk of health effects. They are perfectly safe for the health of children, adults, and pregnant women. Harvard Health Publishing seems to agree with this statement, although they do agree that there’s a very minimal risk of health effects. If you’re concerned about the potential health effects, you aren’t obliged to go through the machines. You can always ask for a pat-down instead.
What’s TSA Security Precheck and Is It Worth It
If you’re a U.S. citizen and you don’t have any criminal offenses, you should apply to the TSA Precheck program.
Essentially, the Precheck program is there to make airport security checks easier and faster. If you apply to the program, you won’t have to stand in the regular line, but instead, you’ll be allowed to go through a quick security check. Precheck passengers don’t have to remove laptops and toiletries from their bags, and they don’t have to remove jackets, shoes, and belts when going through the security screener. They’re also screened more loosely, which makes the lines go much faster.
Right now, over 200 airports and 80 airlines have TSA Precheck lines right next to regular security lines. If you’re flying domestically, most likely you’ll be able to use the Precheck security instead of the regular one.
You can apply to this program if you’re a U.S. citizen, don’t have any criminal records, and are willing to let the TSA store your fingerprints. That said, it’s not for free – it’s 85$ for five years of enrollment and 70$ for renewals. When you sign up, you’ll have to schedule a 10-minute meeting in one of their enrollment centers, which includes a background check and fingerprinting. If you’re accepted, you’ll be enrolled in the program, and you’ll be able to use their precheck security lines for the next five years.
The TSA says that although the Precheck customers are screened less, the Precheck program only results in safer flights. The Precheck program provides information about these passengers, which means TSA regards them as “safer.” That means they trust them more and do fewer inspections. Also, TSA can separate the “safe passengers” from the potentially unsafe flyers meaning they can spend more of their efforts on screening the “unsafe” passengers.